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Are We Ready To Drill?

Tom PattonThe Hill, and several other media sources, are reporting that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has voted to open up areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling.

“Oil and gas producers will be able to drill within 45 miles of the shoreline. The previous demarcation point came 125 miles from the panhandle coastline and roughly 230 miles from the Tampa area.

Companies will also have access to Destin Dome, an area particularly attractive to companies. Nelson’s office said that cut put drilling just 10 miles from the coast.”

Senator Bill Nelson threatened a filibuster of the energy bill in the full senate. The area potentially contains trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, and billions of barrels of oil.

It’s very interesting that a Democratically controlled senate would vote to open up the Florida coast to drilling. It had been a point of some contention during the Presidential campaign. Oil was $140 a barrel, and the chorus of “Drill Here, Drill Now” was long and loud. As oil slid back under $35, and the campaign ended, things got much quieter on the drilling front. Now, as part of an overall energy policy, drilling off the coast of Florida is back in the mix, and I’m surprised, but not displeased.

Don’t expect oil rigs to pop up off Florida’s west coast tomorrow. Not only does the energy legislation have a long way to go before it becomes law, but the oil companies would have to find the best places to drill and establish the drilling rigs. One of the arguments against drilling during the campaign was that it would take a long time to bring the oil to market. Getting fuel from biomass or algae will take a long time as well, and solar, wind, and other renewables are also a long way from being economically viable. Drilling is what we know how to do.

Still, any good energy policy has to include conservation. For now, there’s oil, but not too many generations down the road burning less is going to be a requirement. Americans will rise to the challenge, as we are wont to do. But the shrill chorus of “you’re moving the wrong direction” by approving drilling apparently does not understand the concept of a “comprehensive” energy plan.

I’ve been reading about fuel conservation efforts and alternative fuel ideas being tested by airlines, a major consumer of fossil fuels. Not only are engines being tested on biofuels and algae-based fuels, but later this week, an American Airlines flight will use what’s called “NextGen” GPS-based navigation to fly more directly from Paris to Miami. The shortest distance between two points being a straight line, that will by definition use less fuel. Using less is the point. A comprehensive plan that increases domestic production (making more) while stressing conservation (using less) could actually result in reducing our dependence on foreign oil. It doesn’t take Steven Hawking to do that math.

It’s encouraging to see increased production being included in a comprehensive energy plan. Democrats know Republicans are faced with something of a Sophie’s choice on this bill as it stands now. Dems gave the GOP the drilling they favored in order to get their energy bill. That didn’t stop 5 Republicans from voting “no” in committee, a little surprising with oil creeping back up to $70 per barrel. Eventually, they’re going to have to learn that “no” isn’t always the right answer. That would be easier if they thought there was any chance that they might get a fair hearing from the majority, but Congress doesn’t exactly work that way right now.

In any event, no drilling rigs will be parked off the Florida coast in the near term, and the legislation will likely undergo many changes before it might become law. But at least it’s being talked about. It’s part of the discussion, and to make any progress on our dependence on foreign oil, it needs to be.

5 Responses »

  1. The number one determining factor, should be the view. While vacationing in California a few years back we came upon offshore oil rigs. They have a particular shiny look during sunset. Here is a photo so you get the idea. We don't need oil rigs on our coastline. With a direct hurricane strike the coast could be destroyed forever. Destin, Florida, is rated the number one beach in the World. Why destroy something so beautiful. Get a look at this ...

    • Hogwash. I used to live in Oklahoma and there is greater sadness in seeing oil pumps across the landscape which are motionless, than living fearful on "if" ... If we learned anything from the hurricanes that hit the Texas and Louisiana coasts it's that we are too concentrated in our production and the too few refineries to produce what we already use.

  2. I say let's drill AND let's get a refinery right here in JAX!!! We are on our way to becoming a port of choice for world commerce.
    I say the environmentalists need to sit with a homeless family and tell them they should feel better for living like animals because the world is a better place for not having oil rigs off shore.
    While living in San Diego I recall the "National City Monument." That's what the sailors called an off-ramp from I-5 to National City. For years, not months, an the off ramp went up into the air and stopped (unfinished) while some bird comfortably kept its nest, eggs and family until it relocated itself. How many people lost jobs, how much taxpayer waste was there for a protected bird that had more rights than the families depending on the income?

  3. Absolutentootly! Drill right off the coast of JAX & build a brand new Oil refinery! Would bring 1000's of jobs to JAX.

  4. I'm not at all sure the GPS flight systems will save fuel. On longer flights, it is often advantageous to fly a few hundres miles "out of the way" to pick up a good tailwind. That saves more fuel than it costs to fly a straight line. It also saves flight time by a considerable amount.

    Offshore drilling? New refineries? I'm all for it in a big way. What part of energy INDEPENDENCE don't you understand? Do any of these "no drilling" nuts realize that we don't produce enough energy to run our country and maintain our standard of living? Wind mills and solar power will NEVER provide enough energy. More dams? Check out the internet to find out how much the dammed rivers have silted up, new vs now. Nuclear? There are way to many "anti-nuke" nuts out there. Our nuclear plants are among the safest in the world. France has been using huge amounts of nuke power, safely, for years.

    It seems that all those "no drill" nuts want to continue paying an outrageous percentage of our gross national product to some country that may or may not like us to produce and/or refine oil for us. They are free to cut our oil supply off and they are free to charge us whatever they want for supplying it to us. We CAN produce enough oil to become a net exporter and have those dollars rolling our way while using more natural gas for our own uses.
    Also, there appears to be little interest in Tidal Flow power generation,Oceanic Thermal Differential power generation or Wave Activity power generation. We need to look at ALL of it. A lot of these alternative methods will take more years to make economically usefull than "Drill Now" options. Misguided eco-freaks, get out of the way.

    I too am an eco-freak. I love clean water, whales, fish, trees and other wildlife. My house is becoming a refuge for birds, raccoons, squirrels, opossums and others I don't see. I flatly reject the need for "clear cutting" any forested area except those specificly grown for harvest on level ground. I think we need the everglades and other wetland areas restored and polluters of these areas severely punished. We need limits put on the size of commercial ocean harvester ships and the amount of commercial harvest of the oceans. We do need more hunting, fishing, camping and wild park ares. We do need more nature trails, mountain trekking trails, bicycle trails etc. However, without the energy to do prodictive work and make enough leisue time, all of the needs and wants become a moot point for most of us.

    We also need to curtail the nuts in the white house and the congress before they destroy this country. Slaves don't get to enjoy themselves.